Great Schools Partnership

Building Proficiency Systems

Building Proficiency Systems identifies the fundamental components of a proficiency-based learning system for schools and districts. This visual helps educators see the relationships between the different components, determine what they have accomplished, and identify what still needs to be developed. This model illustrates four key stages and related tasks associated with building a district’s proficiency system, as well as the need for continuous reflection and refinement to ensure coherence across the stages and tasks.

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Stages + Tasks

Plan at the School + District Level

Planning at the school and district level is critical for building a logical and aligned system. This work clarifies processes for development of the system, roles and responsibilities, and processes for input and revision.

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Design for Learning

Principles of backwards design are used to align curriculum and assessments to the outcomes defined in the competencies, performance indicators and scoring criteria. Working with the assessment of outcomes in mind, educators can design instruction, including learning activities, intentional opportunities for formative feedback, and a plan for supporting and extending learning for students who may struggle as well as those who may exceed expectations.

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Teach + Assess

The ability of teachers to discern and address individual student needs to promote learning and growth is critical. Guided by clear, shared outcomes, teachers can be creative in the methods they use to meet the needs of all learners. Teachers adjust instruction based on formative feedback and provide supports and interventions to guide all learners to high levels of achievement. Summative assessments serve as an evaluation of the students’ current learning.

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Communicate Progress

Clear and regular communication of progress to students and families supports achievement of equitable outcomes in a proficiency-based system. This includes the communication of individual student progress as well as the analysis of student performance across the school and district. Data representing the performance of all students can be analyzed to inform next steps for instruction. While a planned unit or instructional cycle may be complete, additional teaching, learning, and reassessment will likely be necessary for some students.

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Continuous Reflection + Refinement

An effective proficiency system will benefit from periodic reflection that results in necessary revisions. Some reflection and refinement cycles are long and involve many stakeholders, such as an annual evaluation of the quality of performance indicators. Others cycles are short and may involve fewer people, such as instructional adjustments within units or lessons based on formative assessment data. At the early stages of development of a proficiency system, reflection might be more frequent or changes may be more substantive as the competencies, performance indicators and scoring criteria are used by teachers.

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→ Download Building Proficiency Systems Explained